Dear Big Daddy,
All this talk about the debt ceiling — is this really the end of the world?
–Dubious in Dinuba
You’ll know the end of the world looms when the Cubs win the Series, Jerry Brown really does serve only one term as promised, I lose weight, Carole Migden loses her New York accent and the state budget actually is balanced.
The debt ceiling is illusory; it exists on paper but the reality of surpassing it is irrelevant. It is an issue for political posturing. I know all about political posturing, after all, and if I hadn’t gotten snockered at the Mirador and locked up the Legislature, I’d have been governor. But that, as Moustache said in Irma La Douce, is another story.
Back to the debt ceiling: It’s been around since the founding of the nation. We had debts and surpluses, and the ceiling was raised regularly to handle the Civil War costs. The roller coaster of debts and surpluses continued until there were 11 straight years of surpluses – hard to imagine now; Republicans, take a bow – in the run-up to the Great Depression.
Between the time the New Deal started until 1950 – an epoch that saw the Depression followed by World War II and the launching of the Cold War – the national debt increased 16-fold to $260 billion. That’s a lot of dough but it’s peanuts compared to the $14.6 trillion debt we’ve got now. If we raised it from $260 billion and entered the Golden Age of the 1950s, we can raise it now and enter another Golden Age in the 21st Century. What’s the big deal?
There was huge increase in the gross public debt during 1980-1992 – the Reagan and elder Bush years – from $909 billion going in to almost $5 trillion going out. So what I said earlier about Republicans taking a bow, forget it.
The real disaster here is political: It’s the inability of the president and congressional Republicans to come to a compromise agreement. Ridiculous. First of all, I think the president can raise the ceiling on his own authority, and to hell with Congress. I don’t get much traction with this idea, unfortunately.
But the president appears unable to wield a stick and carrot at the same. This has been a problem throughout his presidency, and frankly it makes me turn over in my grave. He shouldn’t be asking the public to pressure lawmakers – he should be pressuring lawmakers, especially those Tea Baggers who know as much about politics as I know about Emily Post. Twisting arms goes with the job – in fact, it’s the best part of the job and the test of a good vs. mediocre president. Twist arms, cut the programs of your enemies, reward your friends and all will be well.
C’mon Barack: Tell those Tea Baggers to support your compromise or you’ll go down to their districts and campaign for them. Willie Brown often threatened Republicans like that and it worked every time.